Tara D. Sonenshine is the US Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, a former PSA Board Member. This article originally appeared in the Daily Monitor, an independent daily newspaper in Uganda.
We should protect freedom of expression in all media
World Press Freedom Day is celebrated every May 3 to celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom and to honour journalists who have lost their lives in pursuit of their profession.
But as many human rights activists and journalists and people of conscience often ruefully declare, every day should be World Press Freedom Day. That’s because – as I write this – almost 250 journalists languish in prisons worldwide. Many more are harassed, intimidated and even murdered. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, throughout the world nearly 600 journalists have been murdered with impunity since 1992 – and last year was the deadliest of all for journalists.
What are their purported crimes? Doing what journalists should in any free society: reporting to all of us what is going on in their communities and in their countries. (more…)
Co-authored by Ray Chambers and Thomas Kean. The Honorable Thomas Kean is a former Governor of New Jersey and Chairman of the 9/11 Commission Report. He is on the board of directors of Partnership for a Secure America. This blog posting originally appeared in the Huffington Post.
Bridges Not Barriers: Securing Futures and Improving Lives Through Expanded Foreign Aid
The international community suffered a profound loss earlier this month when Ambassador Chris Stevens was killed in Libya. While the deplorable attack came at the hands of an extremist group, the collective response of the Muslim world has clearly not been supportive of the actions of a few. Within hours, Libya’s interim president strongly condemned the “cowardly” attack and apologized to the United States. Yet almost immediately, some leaders in the United States seized upon the attack as a reason for the United States to end all foreign aid to Libya and other nations in the region.
Anthony Scavone is a recent graduate of Boston University where he studied International Relations focusing specifically on International Development and Sub-Saharan Africa. He served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Mali from October until they were evacuated in mid-April. You can read more about his personal experiences as a Peace Corps Volunteer in his personal blog, Anthony in Africa. This is the first post in a two-post series about the motivations and impact of the recent military coup in Mali.
To boil down all the implications of recent events in Mali into a single post would not give justice to the true breadth of what has happened. Instead I will split this into two separate pieces: part one will focus on what this coup means for Mali and Malians. The second will focus more on what this means for me, the Peace Corps, and the international community at large.
Part 1: Mali and Malians
It’s become relatively common knowledge that the main grievance that drove the military to overthrow Amadou Toumani Toure (Better known as ATT) was the belief that ATT was strangling the military effort to maintain security in the vast northern regions of the country. Lack of food and supplies, while facing a Tuareg rebellion recently augmented by the fall of Gaddafi and the return of arms and trained Malian Tuaregs from Libya, drove mid-ranking military leaders to try to take matters into their own hands.
This article was written by two Fall 2011 Fellows in PSA’s Congressional Fellowship Program. All CFP articles are produced by bipartisan groups of Democrat and Republican Fellows who were challenged to develop opinion pieces that reach consensus on critical national security and foreign affairs issues.
The Dragon Comes to Africa
Africa’s development has been a focus of goodwill for the American people for decades, and a central topic of geostrategic importance for policy makers. China is working to develop Africa too—but how they aid and invest in the continent is different. This is leaving Africans with a choice about how to develop and where they end up. The countries of sub-Saharan Africa are learning quickly that even free money can come with negative effects.
This article was written by two Fall 2011 Fellows in PSA’s Congressional Fellowship Program. All CFP articles are produced by bipartisan groups of Democrat and Republican Fellows that were challenged to develop opinion pieces that reach consensus on critical national security and foreign affairs issues.
For the vast majority of Americans, watching the last American boot leave Iraqi soil is nothing short of good riddance. The numbers have become seared in Americans minds: Nearly nine years. Nearly a trillion dollars spent. Nearly 35,000 US soldiers wounded. Nearly 4,500 US soldiers dead.
The long-term effect of the Iraq War is pretty obvious—a national sentiment for retrenchment—a streak of isolationism that is being espoused by both sides of the political spectrum. It’s hard not to watch Texas Republican Governor Rick Perry warn against “military adventurism” without comparing him to his predecessor.
But despite the desire to go inward, the simple fact is that if there was any hope for the US to go on the sidelines, that’s changed forever with the onset of the Arab Spring. The Arab Spring has reminded the world of the danger of failed states. With long-time dictators losing power, militant Salafists (not solely Al Qaeda) are looking to fill the vacuum.
But the Arab Spring also comes with a new challenge—a new type of interventionism.
Last week, as the unrest in the Middle East raged on, Iran and Senegal broke up. At the heart of the matter was the seizure of a shipment of weapons from Iran allegedly headed to the separatist Casamance Movement of Democratic Forces (MFDC) movement, which has engaged in a low-level insurgency against the Senegalese government for three decades. Outraged, Senegal ended diplomatic ties with Iran, a move that Iran labeled “illogical.”
Regardless of the logic involved, the split could significantly set back Iranian efforts to push into Africa – efforts which Senegal, a 95 percent Muslim majority country with friendly ties to the United States, had been central to. In the last several years, Iran, keen to spread its influence into Africa as it faced increased diplomatic pressure from the West, proposed major economic projects in the West African nation, ranging from infrastructure modernization to plans for a car plant that would sell the Iranian Khodro car. In return, Senegal expressed support for the Iranian nuclear program.
But last fall the Iranian soft power story turned on its head when it morphed into a weapons caper. (more…)
The announcement of the final result of the Referendum has marked the end of an era and today is the beginning of a new era in our history. Today is a glorious day for all the sons and daughters of Southern Sudan. It is a glorious day for the people of the Republic of the Sudan. It is a glorious day for Africa and the world. You have exercised your inalienable right to self-determination freely, fairly and peacefully. You have expressed your freewill over your future. By this official result of 98.83%, the whole world has heard your voice loud and clear!
-President Salva Kiir
Very few experience the kind of jubilation the Southern Sudanese felt when the results of the independence referendum were certified by the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission (SSRC) and President Omar al-Bashir this week. Despite the seemingly insurmountable odds, they went to the ballot box and at 98.83% of the vote walked away from a ruthless dictator with a knack for not only surviving, but thriving off his country’s misfortunes. The impromptu dance party in the capital of Juba said it all. On July 9th, 2011 Southern Sudan will become the 193rd country in the world and the 57th independent country in Africa. (more…)
Kenya captured headlines in December 2007 when the former beacon of stability and growth in East Africa descended into political and social chaos after elections heightened ethnic and tribal divisions. Yet despite over 1,300 deaths, 300,000 displaced, and fears of a second Rwanda, Kenya has pulled back from the brink with the creation of a fragile power-sharing government between the two major rival parties, facilitated by the collaborative efforts of multiple stakeholders locally, nationally, and internationally.
Today, Kenyans return to the polls for the first time since the post-election violence to usher in a new constitution and drastic political and judicial reforms. As Kenya takes a step in a positive direction, its trajectory from violence and complete institutional breakdown to slow but constructive change should be an opportunity for the international community and United States to evaluate the potential and limitations of preventive diplomacy as a concrete foreign policy tool.
International involvement in Kenya did not involve boots on the ground, but focused on rigorous negotiations and external economic and political pressure from international institutions and countries. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, former Secretary-General Kofi Annan, President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania, the African Union, and others were all key in the process, threatening punitive measures and pushing both sides towards compromise. (more…)
For the past 8 months, Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Mines has been amassing a huge stockpile of diamonds plucked from the Marange diamond field in the eastern part of the country. The stockpile, which now tips the scale at around 4.6 million carats, is the unwanted byproduct of the Kimberley Process, the UN-backed regulatory body that certifies diamonds as conflict-free. Under the auspices of the Kimberley Process, 75 countries have agreed to adhere to strict standards governing the mining and sale of diamonds to ensure that the stones do not fund regional conflicts or contribute to human rights violations. If member countries are unable to meet the standards of the Kimberley Process, they are suspended or barred from selling diamonds under the Process. Zimbabwe fell into that category this past November when the Process suspended the country after investigations confirmed that the Marange mine was the site of grave human rights violations, including the alleged massacre of several hundred illegal miners by the Zimbabwean military.
Zimbabwe’s temporary suspension, however, is now under reconsideration and may soon be lifted. Several weeks ago, over 70 representatives from Kimberley Process member countries met in Israel to consider Zimbabwe’s case. Although the meeting ended without a decision, the Zimbabwean government’s position has enough support to make it conceivable that exports may be approved the next time the representatives meet. The South African businessman sent by the Kimberley Process to inspect Zimbabwean mines recommended that the country be approved, and African countries have largely backed Zimbabwe’s position. The main opposition to approval comes from three Western countries- the US, Canada and Australia- and numerous NGO and advocacy groups.
If the Kimberley Process member countries decide to lift the suspension, they will do so to the detriment of Zimbabwe’s future. On the surface, the Kimberley Process decision rests on whether Zimbabwe can prove that the Marange mining operation does not contribute to conflict or violate human rights in any way. However, as the US well knows, any decision to allow Zimbabwe to sell vetted stones on the international market will carry repercussions not only for miners in Marange but for the country as a whole. (more…)
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This is my last post for 2009 I thought I would write about Afghanistan but on second thought I will, no doubt, be doing that quite a lot during 2010. Thanks to the Obama Administration’s surge strategy Afghanistan will, from a blogging viewpoint, be the gift that keeps on giving.
So, as we contemplate whether 2010 will be better or worse let’s take a moment to consider 2009. In the spirit of Dave Barry’s classic annual year in review column let’s acknowledge, albeit with some poetic license commentary by moi, a few of the significant events that made, however briefly, the headlines.
Although it started on Dec. 28 2008 the month of January saw massive Israeli air strikes and a ground force invasion of the Gaza Strip. Heavy ﬁghting took place in Gaza City between the Israeli forces and Hamas. At least 1300 Palestinians were killed. On Jan. 17 Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced a unilateral ceaseﬁre in the Gaza Strip, declaring that Israel has achieved the goals it set when launching the military operation. On Jan. 21 Israel completes its troop withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.
Also that month President Barack Obama signed executive orders closing the US detention camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, within a year; closing the CIA’s secret prisons; requiring a review of military trials for terror suspects; and requiring all interrogations to follow the non-coercive methods speciﬁed in the Army Field Manual.
Of course, nobody knew back then that the camp would end up in Illinois. One can only hope that the inmates are not too acclimated to the Caribbean climate to adjust to a midwest winter.
On Jan 27 Hama declared that it previously was just kidding and broke the ceaseﬁre by attacking an Israeli frontier patrol. Israel immediately responded that it lacks a sense of humor and renewed its air strikes on the Gaza Strip border with Egypt.
On Feb. 3 Iran launched its ﬁrst domestically built satellite into orbit. Iran stated that the satellite is meant for research and telecommunications purposes, but Western states express concern that the technology could be used in the development of ballistic missiles. The U.S. intelligence community, estimating that Iran will show the same swift progress with its missiles that it did with its nuclear program, predicted the next flight will be in 2040.
On Feb. 6, renewing their classic rivalry, a British and a French nuclear submarine collided in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Political leaders from both countries sighed in relief that it was merely submarines and not their respective football fans that collided. (more…)
All blog posts are independently produced by their authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of PSA. Across the Aisle serves as a bipartisan forum for productive discussion of national security and foreign affairs topics.